Stress  Management Techniques

Eileen McCabe has a  free-flowing conversation with David Ellis based on the subject of stress and simple Stress  Management Techniques that can be employed to alleviate the impact of stress. These are David's thoughts ....


Stress Is It Good Or Bad

Stress Management Firstly stress is both a good thing and bad. Our bodies are designed to handle stress and we have a mechanism that is built into our DNA that is called the fight or flight response. You might have come across it. In the fight or flight response it is actually fight, flight or freeze and if I’m faced with an issue,.The question would be do I fight it. Do I run from it or do I freeze? Some cases it is appropriate that we freeze.  In some other cases it is appropriate to fight and in other cases it is appropriate to run for your life.

In all responses, adrenaline is released in the body. This adrenaline will empower you to do one of those three things.

With stress, the same thing applies. So the trigger is fight, flight or freeze, the adrenaline is produced but the adrenaline may not then be dissipated through the body, which would normally take up to twenty four hours. Then if there is more stress there is more adrenaline so your body is in perpetual adrenaline mode. It’s always running, freezing or always fighting. It never rests so everything starts to elevate and everything gets out of control because we are perpetually in that adrenaline mode.

The Compounding of Stress

The problem with stress is that it is compound. So you might stress from a small issue but everything that happens after that, the smallest thing that wouldn’t have stressed me before, now totally stresses me. It compounds as it goes along and adds to the stress that has gone on before. The real problem with stress is that there is no downtime. The body is already firing, it’s ready. In that readiness there is no relaxation, there’s no stopping.

An example is if I am sitting waiting for a cup of coffee in a café and the waitress is taking longer than normal, then that shouldn’t make me stressed; it’s only a cup of coffee. If I am already stressed, however, then her being late by two minutes to come and serve my table, will then send me over the top as I am already in that elevated state.

How Does Stress Manifest?

Well, it’s different for everybody. Some people manage, or appear to manage stress really, really well. Their personality changes, but their physical body doesn’t change. Other people maybe cannot handle stress as well and once we arrive into the fight, flight or freeze response and the adrenaline is in full flow and the body is already supressed then EVERYTHING becomes supressed. Our immune system becomes supressed and therefore we are susceptible to all kinds of illness and we can get incredibly ill through stress. Also when the adrenaline is kicking in and it’s moving around the body, the heart becomes weaker because it’s moving faster all the time so we become more open to heart attacks. Stressed people have heart attacks; they die.

Is Stress an Internal part of someone’s Nature?

Well, here’s the interesting thing. If we can accept that everyone is different and if we can accept that in our DNA makeup we are different; we used to live in this belief that we arrived on the planet as a clean slate, now science is actually proving that we DON’T arrive on the planet as a clean slate within our DNA structure, we already have inherent traits. This can be controversial as those inherent traits are related to our past lives on the planet, our cells have memory. They remember all of the nonsense that we had before. So when I arrive on the planet, if I am already susceptible to being stressed and if I am blessed to have an amazing parents and a loving, caring, calming family and our life as a child is very calming and relaxed and loving then my susceptibility to stress is lower.

If I arrive, though, and I am already put in with parents who are stressed themselves, I’m already susceptible to stress before I get here so now my stress levels have already increased and so I am already in fight, flight or freeze mode, the adrenaline is already moving and as I grow older I live my life in anxiety.

How Easy or Hard is it to Overcome Stress?

Again, it’s down to the individual. The key management of stress is relaxation. Some people are not able to relax because of their genetic makeup as they are already susceptible to stress, they have had a stressful childhood and, as a result, they are living in this constant anxiety bubble. It’s still manageable though; all stress can be managed.

What are some Simple Stress  Management Techniques?

The simplest of all and yet it’s the hardest of all is meditation. Meditation by far is the simplest solution but not everybody is able to meditate. Actually, let me correct myself by saying EVERYONE can meditate but a lot of people feel that they can’t go into meditation.

What are we asking ourselves to do in Meditation?

When I was told about meditation before I began my own journey of exploration of the mind, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to shut their mind down. Why would you want to make your mind go quiet? The mind was not made to go quiet, it was never designed to be quiet. So I could never understand either how you could do that or why you would even want to!

In my earlier days when I was incredibly stressed I went to meditation and the teaching process, which wasn’t the right one for me, was to simply follow your breath and allow your mind to go quiet. All that was in my head when I was told that was to grab this woman and explain that it was not inherent in me to make my mind go quiet!  Then, as time went on I began to learn that there are actually many ways to learn how to do meditation and it’s NOT about making your mind go quiet, it’s actually to do with the subconscious of the mind. That’s when the penny dropped for me and I realised that it’s not about quieting the mind it’s actually about getting the mind out of the way so that the subconscious mind can open.

Does Meditation Help Reduce Stress

Meditation works almost the same as hypnosis. The same principle applies in being able to trick the conscious mind into a lull of there’s nothing to be learned here, there’s nothing of any interest so therefore, go away so I can talk to the subconscious mind.  In the early part of the meditative process it’s about busying the mind so it becomes no longer bothered to listen anymore and just is, it just becomes a being. Once that happens, that allows the subconscious to open to allow any message or programming in for relaxation.

The Subconscious Mind

So how do you do that? You make your conscious mind busy; you give it a task that’s boring. The conscious mind censors everything that comes in so the subconscious mind is the reservoir of information, if you like. So in our subconscious mind we remember everything and though censored by the conscious mind, everything that happens is brought into the subconscious.

stressThe subconscious mind doesn’t have anything to say as basically it is a recording device for everything that goes on. Our conscious mind is the manager of everything. It’s the censor. So if I want to relax the conscious mind would say: Why do you want to relax? What do you need to relax for? I’m feeling very stressed, don’t be silly. You don’t need to relax.

The Ego

This is because also in the conscious mind resides the ego and the ego doesn’t want us to go activating the subconscious mind at all as in the subconscious mind we are going to learn something. There’s going to be stuff in there that he doesn’t want to come out. The subconscious mind doesn’t want that to happen and the ego definitely doesn’t want that to happen. The ego lives in perpetual fear that it’s going to be annihilated and in reality we actually need the ego to transfer to planet as the ego is the projection of self, or rather the projection of what WE think other people see about us.

The Conscious Mind

So when we want to keep quiet the conscious mind and we can busy it by giving it a task to do that has no purpose. Like a task focussed on the breath. Now if the meditator had explained that the reason why we were doing a task focussed on the breath. That this was to keep the mind busy so you could open up your subconscious mind. There really would have been a learning in that. However  just to tell someone to focus on the breath isn’t sufficient as the ego mind is saying, sod this, I’m not doing this, this is nonsense.

One of the things I have done in the past is run classes in meditation where I would do voice following meditation; so I would give a voice lecture in meditation. With that, the conscious mind becomes busy listening but it’s going nowhere. My instruction is really to the subconscious, it’s not to the conscious and eventually the conscious mind goes there’s nothing to be observed here so we can just go off and do something else. That’s when the subconscious mind opens and we can access that part of the mind and begin to plant the program of relaxation and keeping ourselves calm.

Structure in Stress

The other techniques that one needs to do in stress management are to use structure in stress so things like time management are very important.

Keeping a journal is very important, writing down what happens. Because by writing down what happens and sharing that journal we can see what the triggers are that’s creating the stress. When you are writing, write everything that you feel. The picture fell off the wall… how did I feel? We can then look at that in session and say, so the picture fell off the wall and you wanted to thump your wife.

Why was that? Why did you want to harm our wife because the picture fell off the wall. So we delve and we realise that it had nothing to do with the picture so now we look at the issues he may have with his wife. So maybe the stress is NOT related to the picture but related to the wife. Therefore  by keeping a journal and looking at the emotion that’s behind the events, we can then help the client to move forward.

Pay Attention to Nature Stress  Management Techniques

We would also suggest to spend time in nature, going for a walk. When I’m dealing with stressed people I take them for a walk.

stressI took a highly stressed man for a walk around my suite once, by a lake. He was a wealthy man with a big deal to be made the following day that would make him even more money, so he should have been happy but he wasn’t. I took him for the walk and when we got back I asked him ‘What did you see?

He got really angry with me and wanted to know what I was talking about. So I said ‘What did you hear?’ and he didn’t understand what I was saying. So I said ‘why don’t we go for a walk again.’ So I took him for a walk again and when we got back and sat on the bench I said ‘what did you see, what did you hear?’ and he got angry with me again.

Are You Missing Whats In Front Of You

So I suggested we go for a walk again. He said ‘I’m here for stress management, I’m here for you to help me.’ ‘I am helping you.’ I said. ‘Let’s go for a walk, humour me.’ So we were walking down and I said ‘What do you hear?’ ‘I don’t hear anything. What do you mean’ so we began to walk again and he suddenly stopped and tears came into his eyes.

I said ‘What’s happening?’ he said ‘I can see and I can hear! I’ve not seen it before, the woods and the trees. I can hear the birds singing!’  and so I said 'I want you to focus on what’s out there in nature’  so we walked back to the park bench where he got emotional for a while and then turned and said ‘I don’t need to come anymore. I get it. I didn’t get it before and now I get it. He then said "I want to go home and hug my three year old that I haven’t hugged for months and months and months’

He left elated and I never saw him again.

Open Your Eyes To The World

So that journey about spending time in nature. It’s not just nature, it’s about spending time in nature and paying attention.

So going for a walk, seeing nature, doing exercise … paying attention in the moment, practicing gratitude, practicing small acts of kindness. These are all powerful tools in stress management.

As, if we are spending time doing something nice and kind for somebody we’re pushing down the stress. Stressful people cannot do acts of kindness as they are in such a high, distracted state.  The American’s have this concept that everyone should have a therapist and they are right. They think there is something seriously wrong with you if you don’t. Whereas in Europe, they think there is something seriously wrong with you if you do.

The American’s are right. You might not need to go to a therapist all the time but it’s the art of talking and the healing attributes of talking that’s quite phenomenal. So, I urge people, have a counsellor. You don’t have to go all the time, but go when you need.

- Eileen McCabe

COMING SOON: A Conversation with David Ellis on the subject of meditations and affirmations as stress management tools.